By TODD GOTTULA
KEARNEY – Tim Burkink smiles when asked about his childhood memories of Christmas.
The son of a longtime grocer, for Burkink the holidays always meant working long hours alongside his dad, Lee, and other family members at Lee’s Market in Scribner.
The family-owned grocery store remains a Main Street staple in his hometown, where Burkink’s dad, Lee, still shows up daily to work at age 89.
“For me, life was closely tied to the store. Christmas Eve was one of the busiest days of the year in the store, so it was all hands on deck working – making fruit baskets, putting together sacks of goodies for schools and things like that,” says Burkink, UNK’s Dean of Business and Technology.
“It’s funny, but my childhood memories of Christmas are mostly related to taking care of customers at our store. That’s how we spent Christmas Eve, working a long, hard day and then going home and somehow finding the energy that evening to celebrate with family.”
We asked Burkink a variety of questions about the holidays:
After the grocery store closed, what do you remember about Christmas Eve?
“My mom (Teena) was a great cook. She loved to entertain, but complained about it all the time. She put up a Christmas Eve buffet that went on and on. Swedish meatballs, a beef or pork roast, fried chicken, relish trays and homemade macaroni salad.”
What are your go-to holiday foods today?
“Peanut butter balls covered in chocolate. Prime rib. Red wine. Another strong memory for me is that my mom used to make mulled wine on the stovetop with spices. I just love the smell of it. And I still make Swedish meatballs using my mom’s recipe.”
Do you have a current holiday tradition?
“My immediate family – my wife, Laura, and kids – gets together in Kearney on Christmas Eve. When I grew up, Santa magically came every year around 8 or 9 p.m. at night, when we were out looking at lights. But my wife grew up where Christmas Day is the only way it can be. You know, where Santa comes overnight. So we usually celebrate with extended family that day, and alternate between Kearney and Columbus, where my wife’s sister is from.”
Your favorite holiday carol?
“ ‘Carol of the Bells’ is my all-time favorite, and close behind is ‘The Holley and the Ivy.’ I just heard a version of ‘Carol of the Bells’ by the Kearney Catholic choir that was spectacular.”
Your favorite holiday movie?
“The original ‘Christmas Carol’ with Alastair Sim – the black and white version. There’s something about the nostalgia of a Dickens’ Christmas in London in the 1800s. I’d love to visit London this time of year. It’s still the most amazing place at Christmas.”
What’s on your list for Santa?
“A Dewalt 20 volt cordless drill. I’m also building a set of Wusthof knives, and this year I’ve asked for a paring knife to complete my set. As I get older I find that I want less, but better quality, stuff.”
What should Santa bring UNK?
“There’s no question. Santa needs to take a good hard look at the Otto Olsen building.”
What makes the holidays special to you?
“I always enjoy reflecting on memories created in my childhood. Family and faith. Those values remain with me today. It’s always a time to prepare, and be hopeful for, the future.”
What does your Christmas tree look like?
“We have an artificial tree about 7 or 8 feet tall. Only clear lights are allowed in my house, by dictate of my wife. There’s not a colored light in sight. Gold and red ornaments and ribbon. Downstairs we have an old Christmas tree where we put on all the ornaments our family has accumulated and our kids made over the years.”
Do you have a New Year’s Resolution?
“I’m going to show it to you,” Burkink says, pointing to a quote from Norman Vincent Peale that’s displayed on his computer screen. It reads “Change your thoughts and you change your world.”
My resolution is to engage in more positive thinking. It is very powerful. When we let negative thoughts control our thinking, we tend to behave in negative ways and let that dictate our behavior. I want to be more grateful for what I have and not worry about little irritants.”